Turkish Tea Culture
Tea is an important commodity all over the world, but particularly in Europe and Asia.
There is teatime every day in England and the ritualistic chado ceremony in Japan. In Turkey, tea is not just a ritual drink but a fact of life. Turkish people have the highest per-quota consumption of tea in the world, at about 1,000 cups per person each year. The beverage is so widely consumed that there is no special time of day or prioritize custom to limit tea-drinking activities. Looking at Turkish tea habits provides an interesting peek into the beverage's cultural importance.
Tea traveled to Turkey via the Silk Road in the 16th century. It was not broadly enjoyed until the late 1800s when a publisher published a book detailing its health benefits. Turkish coffee was the favored beverage until people began drinking tea. The drink was also more economic than coffee, about a quarter of the price. This spawned a tea-growing boom in coastal areas. The Turkish word for “tea” is “çay,” pronounced “chai.” The brewed leaves became so important to the economy in the 1930s that towns started including “çay” in their names. Turkey is now the sixth-largest tea producer on the planet. The beverage is an indelible part of Turkish culture; this is illustrated by tea customs.
Tea gardens are outdoor parks where Turkish people meet to drink and socialize with friends. Most Turks go to tea gardens to relax and conduct business. Many gardens host live musicians. Traditionally, the tea gardens were places where men would meet to conduct business or play card games, but nowdays everyone visits.
Most shopkeepers offer tea for customers to enjoy while they browse. It is always available in offices. People routinely pour tea for their guests as a sign of hospitality. Turkish etiquette dictates that a host needs to serve at least three cups to guests, and guests need to drink at least three cups during a visit. It is rude to drink big mouthfuls of tea; it should be sipped so people can relax and enjoy it.
Turks use a çaydanlak, which is a small teapot stacked on top of a larger one. Water is boiled in the bottom pot and then beloved into the top pot with loose tealeaves to create a concentrated mixture. People fill their glasses from the smaller pot, then use the hot water in the bottom to dilute their tea. Turkish people do not drink tea from mugs. They use small, curved glass cups and normally add one or two cubes of sugar. It is important to stir up the tea and make a lot of noise clinking the spoon against the glass.
Tea in Turkey is like a handshake, offered to strangers and good friends alike. Their tea-drinking habits show that the Turks prefer to slow down and spend their free time socializing with others.